Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
‘I find no pleasure in them’–
before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
Remember him – before the silver cord is severed,(Eccl. 12:1-7 NIV)
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
The days of darkness may be many, but we can know joy by realising that God is our Creator. We almost have to think this thought every day because we forget to realise the significance that our heavenly Father is the Creator God.
The longer one lives the more likelihood we will experience more of the dark day experiences. It is a just a fact of longevity. Living each day with an awareness of God helps lay the foundation for dealing with those days. When my father was dying, he said that it was hard to read his bible and that he had to depend upon the verses that he had memorised. He enjoyed listening to hymns but reading as an activity ended for him. It is best to start early in life along the pathway of joyful existence before God.
The days of trouble are all age and impending death. A similar description is used in Ezekiel:
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign LORD.(Ezek. 32:7-8 NIV)
How can God use such language as He describes taking our life from us? Simply because God is God and we are not. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Dust you are and to dust you shall return. The Preacher has been preparing us throughout the book to think about our death and to live in light of that death. If these last few verses irritate, depress or shock you then you might need to go back to the start of the book and learn again. It is so hard to squeeze out of us the notion of self- importance. I don’t want to think about my death and if we are shocked by the graphic description of the failing body in old age, it is important to ask ourselves why.
The Preacher is addressing the youth here especially but still speaking to us all. I remember at about age 15 noticing that I was getting to be stronger than my father. We were doing some gardening for my great aunt and a rather stubborn bush didn’t want to be uprooted. I saw my father struggle with it and I asked him to let me have a go. I rushed in and tugged and up it came. My father remarked on the vigour of youth. That vigour can be at once a strength and a weakness. The temptation of youth is to live for the enjoyment but fail to remember that God is their Creator. A professor at seminary was introducing his lectures on Ecc. to his students and he said that he felt they were too young to understand. It’s not really that it is not understood, more that it is not given a second thought because life is just moving along at a pace. Studies, career, marriage, house, children, so many things to occupy time, money and effort. All those are good things but enjoy these gifts remembering that they come from the hand of the Creator.
I have chosen to use an allegorical interpretation of these verses, trying to assign the images to the various failing parts of the body. There is a good precedence for this approach. However, some see the verses as describing a funeral, when industry stops and the onlookers are fearful because the passing of a loved one. Whatever way we view this the result is much the same.
The severing of the silver cord and broken golden bowl all speak of death. To those who are not Christians it is important that they give some thought to their Creator, because once that cord is severed and the bowl broken it is too late.
Lord we thank You for the possibility of redemption and forgiveness. Forgive us for a misspent youth when we did not garner in the fullness of joy that was available to us. Lord help us to put the past behind us and move on and begin to enjoy the blessings that You have given us today because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.